Ad tech giant AppNexus has announced technology to cut latency in programmatic video advertising – or an ad’s load time – from an average of five seconds, to “as little as five milliseconds”.

According to a survey of 1,200 advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad-tech companies by the group, extended periods of latency are causing an average drop-off of 25% after a five-second delay.

Abandonment rises sharply thereafter, with 40% of users leaving after 10 seconds, whilst a 20-second wait for content could see advertisers lose some 80% of eyeballs.

“Latency is one of the greatest challenges facing the video advertising industry,” commented Eric Hoffert, AppNexus’s SVP of video technology.

“On average, every incremental one-second buffering delay for video playback results in a 6% increase in abandonment rate.”

Keeping users captive

Hoffert called yesterday’s announcement a “transformative event” for digital advertising, particularly for smaller publishers.

“When a video fails to load immediately, end viewers don’t know whether there’s an issue with the publisher’s content or an issue with the ad.

“Both possibilities trigger user flight, a problem that is especially vexing for independent publishers who provide a diversity of rich, alternative content to the walled video gardens of Facebook and YouTube.”

Going some way to explain the technology, Hoffert states that it is no longer necessary to wait until a user has pushed play and is waiting for content to load before running a client-side auction. Instead there are two approaches available to advertisers.

“One option is to leverage thousands of low-latency real-time bidding servers to run auctions before the user hits play, instead of on personal computers after the user hits play.”

The other option is known as ‘server-side ad stitching’, adds Hoffert, which also allows advertisers to circumvent ad blockers.

“This also moves the auction process away from the personal computer by allowing publishers to stitch their video and ad content together at the CMS level rather than the browser level.”

Instant retrieval

In addition, the service employs a number of ad-caching efficiency improvements, storing the winning video ad serving template rather than the actual video ad, which is more lightweight in both storage and bandwidth.

This mediation process allows for “virtually instant retrieval” when it’s time to play a video ad, adds Hoffert, which “moves latency away from the video play button.”

AppNexus has also made it possible for publishers to set their own ‘timeout’ settings which will prevent auctions from running beyond a given timeframe.

“We’re living in 2016, not 1996,” continues Hoffert; “Online video should be as seamless, fast, and fluid as television.

“Every millisecond counts, and all industry actors need to work together to solve the latency problem and create a better video internet.”